Category Archives: Importance of Tourism

Hospitality Industry Calls on Congress to Pass Save Hotel Jobs Act

Citing a loss of 3.1 million leisure and hospitality jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic and with hotels expected to end 2021 down 500,000 jobs, the hotel industry is calling on to Congress to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Download Fact Sheet on 2021 State Job Loss Here

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released new data showcasing the ongoing devastating impact of COVID-19 on hotel industry employment, including projected hotel job loss through the end of 2021. Without targeted relief from Congress, nationwide, hotels are expected to end 2021 down 500,000 jobs. Hotels are the only major hospitality and leisure segment yet to receive direct aid.

The top five states projected to end 2021 down the highest number of jobs include:

  1. California: 67,169 jobs lost
  2. Florida: 39,560 jobs lost
  3. New York: 38,028 jobs lost
  4. Nevada: 22,282 jobs lost
  5. Hawaii: 20,029 jobs lost

The release of this data follows the introduction of the Save Hotel Jobs Act, legislation to provide targeted federal relief to the ailing hotel industry workforce including up to three months of full payroll support. AHLA and UNITE HERE, the largest hospitality workers union in North America, joined forces last week to call on Congress to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act. The bill, introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), provides a lifeline to hotel workers, providing the assistance they need to survive until travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Unfortunately, the road to recovery for the hotel industry is long, the AHLA stated. The recent uptick in leisure travel for spring and summer is encouraging for hotels, however, business travel—the largest source of hotel revenue—is down 85% and is not expected to begin its slow return until the second half of this year. Full recovery is not expected until 2024. 

“While many other hard-hit industries have received targeted federal relief, the hotel industry has not. The Save Hotel Jobs Act will provide critical support to hotels and their workers during this crucial period,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “We need Congress to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act to help hotels retain and rehire employees until travel demand, especially business travel, begins to come back.”

No industry has been more affected by the pandemic than hospitality, the AHLA stated. Leisure and hospitality has lost 3.1 million jobs during the pandemic that have yet to return, representing more than a third of all unemployed persons in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more stark, the unemployment rate in the accommodation sector specifically remains 330% higher than the rest of the economy.

Empty or permanently closed hotels have also had a ripple effect on communities throughout the country, hurting a wide range of businesses that rely on the presence of hotel guests, such as restaurants and retail, hotel supply companies and construction. For every 10 people directly employed on a hotel property, hotels support an additional 26 jobs in the community, from restaurants and retail to hotel supply companies and construction, according to a study by Oxford Economics. With hotels expected to end 2021 down 500,000 jobs, based on the pre-pandemic ratio, an additional 1.3 million hotel-supported jobs are in jeopardy this year without additional support from Congress.

This crisis has been especially devastating in urban areas, hurting minority communities, the AHLA stated. Urban hotels, which are more reliant on business and group travel and more likely to host larger events, ended January down 66% in room revenue compared to last year. According to recent reports, New York City has seen one-third of its hotel rooms—more than 42,000—wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 200 hotels closing permanently in the city.

Read more about the Save Hotel Jobs Act here.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the main national association representing all segments of the U.S. lodging industry. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support and workforce development programs to move the industry forward. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry was the first industry impacted, and it will be among the last to recover. That is why AHLA is committed to promoting safe travel while also creating a standardized safety experience nationwide through the Safe Stay initiative. With an enhanced set of health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe and clean environment for all hotel guests and employees, hotels across America are ready to welcome back travelers when they are ready to travel.

Learn more at www.ahla.com.  

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Travel Industry Sees Passage of Biden’s American Rescue Plan as Critical

The U.S. Travel Association and American Hotel and Lodging Association joined the growing list of business leaders and economists who see President Biden’s American Rescue Plan as critical to addressing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The U.S. Travel Association and American Hotel and Lodging Association joined the growing list of business leaders and economists who see President Biden’s American Rescue Plan as critical to addressing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
 
The travel industry supports 15.8 million or nearly 1 in 10 American jobs. In a report, the U.S. Travel Association noted in a report that COVID-19 has devastated the travel industry more than any other sector of the economy. In order to get Americans back to work and safely resume travel, the U.S. Travel Association President and CEO said that there has to be immediate action to pass the American Rescue Act.
 
Robert Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO praised the American Rescue Plan in a speech yesterday, saying “We are encouraged by the measures to provide additional grants and loans to small businesses in the hardest-hit industries, which include travel. The Paycheck Protection Program is set to expire in March, but the economic hardships of the pandemic will persist, so it is important that struggling businesses continue to receive aid to maintain operations and keep workers on payrolls.”
 
Dow added “there are important components contained in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to help us rebuild, such as providing grants for the hardest hit industries, including travel. Also included in the President’s proposal is additional funding for vaccine distribution which we know is vital to helping travel businesses more robustly reopen.”
 
And, the market data analyst, STR, recently said that the American Rescue Plan’s proposal for widespread vaccinations would help get the industry back on track “these opening months of the year are going to resemble some of the :slowest of 2020, but we are optimistic that hotel demand will improve as vaccine distribution becomes more widespread and travel confidence grows,” said Amanda Hite, president of STR. “While the early indicators should be visible in Q2, we expect Q3 to be the point where leisure travel shifts into high gear and corporate and group business show more progressive improvement. That will feed into a 2022 that shows a higher level of recovery.”

Meanwhile, the American Hotel & Lodging Association released AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021” outlining the forecasted state of the hotel industry in 2021 and into the immediate future. The report examines the high-level economics of the hotel industry’s recovery, the specific impact on and eventual return of business travel, and consumer travel sentiments. 

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Hospitality Industry Links Travel Demand for 2021 with COVID Vaccine Distribution

56% Expect to Travel for Leisure; Business Travel Not Expected to Return Until 2024; Consumer Comfort with Travel Linked to Vaccine Distribution

The hospitality industry sees the outlook for travel demand as linked to the availability of COVID vaccination (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released “AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021” outlining the forecasted state of the hotel industry in 2021 and into the immediate future. The bottom line is that the industry’s recovery is linked to the availability of COVID vaccinations.

The pandemic has been devastating to the hospitality industry workforce, which is down nearly 4 million jobs compared to the same time in 2019. While some 200,000 jobs are expected to be filled this year, overall, the accommodations sector faces an 18.9% unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty in 2021.

Business travel, which comprises the largest source of hotel revenue, remains nearly nonexistent, but it is expected to begin a slow return in the second half of 2021. Among frequent business travelers who are currently employed, 29% expect to attend their first business conference in the first half of 2021, 36% in the second half of the year and 20% more than a year from now. Business travel is not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023 or 2024.  

Leisure travel is expected to return first, with consumers optimistic about national distribution of a vaccine and with that an ability to travel again in 2021. The report found that heading into 2021, consumers are optimistic about travel, with 56% of Americans saying they are likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021. While 34% of adults are already comfortable staying in a hotel, 48% say their comfort is tied to vaccination in some way. 

The top findings from this report include:

  1. Hotels will add 200,000 direct hotel operations jobs in 2021 but will remain nearly 500,000 jobs below the industry’s pre-pandemic employment level of 2.3 million employees. 
  2. Half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty.
  3. Business travel is forecasted to be down 85% compared to 2019 through April 2021, and then only begin ticking up slightly. 
  4. 56% of consumers say they expect to travel for leisure, roughly the same amount as in an average year.  
  5. Nearly half of consumers see vaccine distribution as key to travel.
  6. When selecting a hotel, enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices rank as guests’ number two priority, behind price. 

“COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of hotel job growth. Yet the hallmark of hospitality is endless optimism, and I am confident in the future of our industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA.

“Despite the challenges facing the hotel industry, we are resilient. Hotels across the country are focused on creating an environment ready for guests when travel begins to return. AHLA is eager to work with the new Administration and Congress on policies that will ultimately help bring back travel, from helping small business hoteliers keep their doors open to ramping up vaccine distribution and testing. Together, we can bring back jobs and reignite a continued investment in the communities we serve,” said Rogers.

The resurgence of COVID-19, the emergence of new strains, and a slow vaccine rollout have added to the challenges the hotel industry faces this year. With travel demand continuing to lag normal levels, national and state projections for 2021 show a slow rebound for the industry and then accelerating in 2022. 

The hotel industry experienced the most devastating year on record in 2020, resulting in historically low occupancy, massive job loss, and hotel closures across the country. Hotels were one of the first industries affected by the pandemic after travel was forced to a virtual halt in early 2020, and it will be one of the last to recover. The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry so far has been nine times that of 9/11.

Download the full report here.

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GreatEscape Adventures Uses Foundation to Facilitate Great Escape from Poverty Caused by Pandemic

Vietnam countryside on the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt.  The around-the-world mystery tour awakens travelers  to culture, heritage and needs of people around the world and helps support projects to alleviate poverty and need. The Great Escape Foundation this year is focusing its philanthropy on addressing the hunger and displacement needs of millions of pandemic affected families. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Global Scavenger Hunt, which has been organized by William and Pamela Chalmers of GreatEscape Adventures for over 15 years, was put on hold this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully the Chalmers will bring it back as soon as possible. It was a trip-of-a-lifetime for me when I took part in the 15th annual around-the-world mystery tour in 2019. The trips are designed to instill an understanding of similarities and differences among cultures and people around the world, but also are designed to support projects through their GreatEscape Foundation.

Because of the pandemic, GreatEscape Foundation 2021 focus “is pivoting temporarily from our usual goals of building schools and assisting families with interest free micro-loans. Our plea this year is different,” they write.

“Instead, we find ourselves reflecting that while we have been overwhelmed with concerns about our own very personal existential anxieties, that the plight of world’s poorest has been forgotten. Our world has gotten smaller. Sadly, the erosion of decades of progress made against the beachhead of poverty has been significant. Growing legions of the world’s poorest are falling behind again and suffering awfully, in part because we have been so preoccupied in helping ourselves. But we cannot abandon helping others.

“Extraordinary times require extraordinary actions. This year, 100% of the funds raised will be immediately directed to address the hunger and displacement needs of millions of pandemic affected families.”

Chalmers created the Global Scavenger Hunt not just to promote the benefits of international travel to cultivate Global Citizens, and all the benefits of travel – from providing economic foundation to sustain places of history, heritage and culture that might otherwise be abandoned, provide jobs and improve the living standards for communities and societies, and promote an exchange of understanding and ideas just as Marco Polo did centuries ago, where we are also encouraged to engage in voluntourism projects along the way – but serves to support The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes. The annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers).

“Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families,” Chalmers writes.

Make donations online at GlobalScavengerHunt.com/greatescape-foundation.

GreatEscape Adventures, 310-281-7809, GlobalScavengerHunt.com.  

See: Global Scavenger Hunt: In the Scramble to Be Crowned ‘World’s Best Travelers’

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Hotel Industry Renews Call for Congress to Pass Another COVID Relief Bill Amid Dismal Holiday Travel Forecast

The hotel industry was the first impacted by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover and is appealing to Congress for COVID-19 relief. The industry is assuring travelers “for those who are considering traveling for the holidays, hotels will be ready to welcome you. Through our Safe Stay initiative, hotels have enhanced our already rigorous cleaning protocols to be more transparent and give travelers even more peace of mind.” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnow.com

WASHINGTON (November 12, 2020) – A new national survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows that many Americans are not expected to travel this holiday seasons. Results show that 72% of Americans are unlikely to travel for Thanksgiving and 69% are unlikely to travel for Christmas, compounding the challenges for the hotel industry during this public health crisis.

Business travel has been even more impacted. Only 8% of Americans say they have taken an overnight business trip since March, and just 19% of respondents who are currently employed—or 8% of all adults—expect to travel for business within the next six months. Sixty-two percent (62%) of employed Americans have no plans to stay in a hotel for business.

The survey of 2,200 adults was conducted November 2-4, 2020 by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA. Key findings of the survey include the following:

  • Only 3 in 10 (32%) respondents have taken an overnight vacation or leisure trip since March
  • 21% of Americans say they are likely to travel for Thanksgiving, 24% are likely to travel for Christmas
  • Looking ahead to next year, 24% are likely to travel for spring break 
  • 44% say their next hotel stay for vacation or leisure travel will be a year or more from now or they have no plans to stay in a hote

“This holiday season will be an especially difficult time for all Americans, and our industry is no exception” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “Fewer people will be traveling, and business travel remains nearly non-existent. That’s why it’s so important for Congress to pass a relief bill now. Millions of Americans are out of work, and thousands of small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open. We cannot afford to wait until the next Congress is sworn in for relief. They need help now.”

“For those who are considering traveling for the holidays, hotels will be ready to welcome you. Through our Safe Stay initiative, hotels have enhanced our already rigorous cleaning protocols to be more transparent and give travelers even more peace of mind,” said Rogers.

The hotel industry was the first impacted by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover. Hotel occupancy rates partially rebounded from record lows in April, but they have continued to decline since Labor Day. According to STR, nationwide hotel occupancy was 44.4% for the week ending October 31, compared to 62.6% the same week last year. Occupancy in urban markets is just 35.6%, down from 71.8% one year ago.

As a result of the significant drop in travel, more than half of hotels report they have less than half of their typical, pre-crisis staff working full time currently. Without further governmental assistance, 74% of hotels said they would be forced into further layoffs. Business and group travel are not expected to reach 2019 peak demand levels again until 2023. As a result of the sharp drop in travel demand from COVID-19, state and local tax revenue from hotel operations is estimated to drop by $16.8 billion in 2020. 

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Travel Experts to Discuss Lessons from COVID-19 on Tourism in a Changing Climate

Jokulsarlon Glacier, Iceland. The travel and tourism industry, which sustains environments, cultures and economies in communities around the world, faces twin crises of climate change and COVID-19. The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is hosting a free 2020 World Tourism Day Webinar on Tuesday, September 29 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.

Join the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) for a 2020 World Tourism Day Webinar entitled Lessons from COVID-19 for Tourism in a Changing Climate, Tuesday, September 29, 11:00 am–12:30 pm EST

Registration for this free event is now open, and space is limited.

CREST’s annual meta-analysis, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics, will share key studies on COVID-19 and climate change and the lessons that may be applied from the former to meet the challenges of the latter. CREST’s World Tourism Day Webinar will share the report’s key findings and will bring together experts to discuss consumer, business, and destination trends in the context of recovery. 

Distinguished speakers will explore the unprecedented opportunity to mitigate two existential threats, climate change and COVID-19, with one coordinated approach, truly making the world a safer, more equitable, and more resilient place for all.

Panelists will include:

The latest report, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2020, a special edition on lessons from COVID-19 for tourism in a changing climate, comes at an unprecedented time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has highlighted the immense need and value of tourism, while fundamentally changing the way destinations, businesses, and travelers will plan, manage, and experience tourism. At the same time, climate change remains an existential threat that has real consequences for destinations and communities everywhere.

The report includes a special focus on the two major crises facing our world today: climate change and COVID-19. Sharing cutting-edge research and examples, the report describes how travelers, tourism businesses, and destinations are implementing workable, sustainable solutions to support our planet and its people. The report also provides an overview of what consumers, businesses, and destinations are experiencing during COVID-19 and offers sustainable solutions that can help the tourism industry on a road to responsible recovery.

“Crisis often breeds innovation, and destination communities and businesses must now take the time to reconsider the path forward,” said Gregory Miller, Executive Director of CREST. “As we look to the future of tourism, the same rigor and dedication that is needed to adapt to the pandemic must also be applied to neutralize the threat of climate change.”

Trends & Statistics 2020 updates CREST’s previous industry studies, released every year since 2013. This year’s report was prepared in collaboration with more than 30 leading organizations, researchers, and institutions, including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The full report is available at responsibletravel.org.

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Hotel Industry on Brink of Collapse Releases Roadmap to Recovery

Wentworth By the Sea, a grand historic resort on New Castle island, off Portsmouth, NH (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON D.C. – With new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing staggering job loss to the hospitality and leisure industry, the American Hotel & Lodging Association today released a “Roadmap to Recovery,” calling on Congress to prioritize relief for hotel workers and small businesses in the next stimulus package. The April Jobs Report showed the hospitality and leisure industry was the hardest hit, losing 7.7 million jobs—nearly as many jobs as the next four sectors combined. (Click here to read AHLA’s letter to Congress.)

AHLA is urging Congress to provide immediate assistance in these four areas:

  • Help hotels retain and rehire employees by extending the Paycheck Protection Program, offering employees direct tuition assistance or tax credits, and expanding the Employee Retention Credit

  • Protect employees and guests through tax credits for cleaning equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • Keep hotel doors open by providing relief for hotel commercial mortgages and increasing the size and flexibility of PPP loans

  • Incentivize Americans to travel again when it’s safe with a new, temporary travel tax credit and restoring the entertainment business expense deduction

“The hospitality industry is in a fight for survival,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “We are grateful to the leadership of both parties during one of the most difficult health and economic challenges we have faced. We are urging Congress to do even more to help the hotel industry so that our small business hotel operators can keep the lights on and retain and rehire employees.”

COVID-19 continues to devastate the hotel industry: 2020 is projected to be the worst year on record for hotel occupancy, and experts estimate it will be at least 2022 before hotels return to their 2019 occupancy and revenue levels. So far, the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry has been nine times worse than September 11. In a recent survey of AHLA members, more than 8 in 10 hotel employees said they have had to lay off or furlough workers. Only 37 percent have been able to rehire any staff through economic relief measures such as PPP.

With a presence in every congressional district in America, hotels are central to getting our economy back on track and supporting millions of jobs. Prior to the pandemic, hotels were proud to support one in 25 American jobs—8.3 million in total—and contribute $660 billion to U.S. GDP. A representative hotel with 100 occupied rooms per night supports nearly 250 jobs in the community and generates $18.4 million in guest spending at neighborhood shops and restaurants. Hotels also generate $186 billion in local, state, and federal taxes each year.

“While the hotel industry was one of the first affected by the pandemic, we have collectively stepped up to serve our communities during this public health crisis. We need Congress to continue to prioritize the industries and employees most affected by the crisis, so we can retain and rehire the people who power our industry, our communities and our economy,” concluded Rogers.

Click here to download the hotel industry’s Road Map to Recovery one-pager.

Click here to read AHLA’s letter to Congress.

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Southampton Inn on Long Island’s East End Remains Open to Provide Needed Respite

Southampton Inn Bedroom, Cooper’s Beach, Benday Sophia @Ceravolo, 

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and the declaration of a national emergency, the Southampton Inn on the East end of Long Island, remains open to care for guests and the wider community. While larger gatherings are currently not possible, people still need somewhere safe to stay, whether construction workers supporting emergency infrastructure projects or families trying to visit loved ones. Housekeeping protocols at the Inn meet the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  
 
The Southampton Inn wants to first reassure guests that they can book with confidence. They understand that people are concerned about the evolving situation and, specifically, scheduled overnight stays and future travel plans. To accommodate guests during this time of uncertainty, the Inn will cancel any reservations through April 15, 2020 or will credit your reservations to any available date through March 31, 2021. They are also taking the following steps to accommodate guests:  

The Inn is offering a room rate of $149/night (plus taxes and fees) for their available rooms. Sixteen of the rooms are pet-friendly.

Claude’s Restaurant is offering take-out breakfast options daily between 7:00am and 10:00am. The restaurant is currently closed for dinner and Sunday brunch through March 31, 2020, and management is monitoring the evolving guidelines.

Guests are welcome to reserve an extended stay in June, July or August. Prices range from $11,000 – $15,000 per month (subject to change and availability).

Despite the underlying tensions surrounding the outbreak, spring hasarrived and a welcome breath of fresh air and relaxation awaits at the Southampton Inn. Located in the heart of Long Island’s historic Southampton Village, the Inn is just one mile from gorgeous nationally recognized ocean beaches, hiking and cycling trails.
 
New this 2020, Claude’s Gallery inaugural exhibition features artwork by Ceravolo & Candice CMC, Charles Ford, Robin Morris and Nickol Renae. Guests can stop by for a tour or call for information about the artists.  A well-stocked library provides an ideal place to relax with a book or board game.
 
Looking ahead, the Southampton Inn currently has a number of events planned starting in May 2020 including:
 
May 1 – 3      – 2020 May Day Celebration
May 8 – 10   – Mother’s Day Weekend getaway and brunch
May 9              – The USA Women’s Half Marathon in Southampton Village (pre-race dinner)
May 14-17    – What’s New, Southampton Village? (featuring exciting and diverse promotions and events that focus on family fun, history, the arts and recreation – all designed to showcase the Village’s many offerings during one of the most beautiful times of the year).
May 24            – Memorial Day Weekend Summer Kickoff Barbecue
June 12 -14  – Croquet and Rosé starts June 12-14 and continues every Sunday through the summer: $50/couple includes bottle of selected rosé, croquet on the Inn’s lawn and live music.

The Southampton Inn is classic, unassuming and utterly charming. The Inn, on five acres, offers the personal attention of a bed & breakfast with the services of a hotel. The 90 guest rooms, all with slightly different decor, offer individual temperature control, sparkling tiled bathrooms, refrigerators, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The grounds consist of several acres of manicured lawns and gardens, with amenities that everyone can enjoy: 50-foot heated outdoor pool, All-weather tennis court, croquet and volleyball, Game Room for all ages, and Claude’s Restaurant.

When things return to normal, The Inn and Claude’s Restaurant are also popular, established settings for corporate retreats, meetings, reunions, destination weddings and other gatherings, combining the natural beauty of the East End of Long Island with seasonal amenities, all in one convenient location.

Southampton Inn & Claude’s Restaurant, 91 Hill Street, Southampton, NY 11968, 631-283-6500, reservations@southamptoninn.com, https://southamptoninn.com/

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NYS to Invest $300 Million to “Reimagine” Erie Canal, Expand Recreational Activities, Finish 750-Mile Empire State Trail

As part of the $300 million plan to “Reimagine” the Erie Canal, a 750-mile Empire State Trail will be completed, including closing gaps of Erie Canalway that makes possible the annual  eight-day, 400-mile, Cycle the Erie bike tour (registration now open) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is huge for New York State’s tourism and recreational opportunities: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s is proposing a $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal by creating recreational activities on the Canal to boost tourism and recreational fishing, mitigate flooding, enhance irrigation and restore wetlands. 

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st century needs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail (750 miles of connected bikeways), grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s Canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”

“The canals have played a crucial role in New York’s history and growth, and with the implementation of these new exciting projects, the canals will remain a vital force and make a positive contribution to the economic well-being and quality of life in the 225 communities they travel through,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

A first phase of funding starting this year – through the New York Power Authority Board which oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary –  includes a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the Canal and a separate $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area.

The remaining $135 million of the plan’s funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutionsrelated to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.

New Economic Development Fund for Canal Communities

In the first phase of the program, a $100 million economic development fund will support projects that adaptively reuse canal infrastructure to enhance water recreation, tie the Canal’s new recreational improvements to the Governor’s Empire State Trail, celebrate historic canal structures, and develop unique canalside attractions and activities. Roughly $25 million of that will be allocated immediately to a set of initial projects:

Connecting Communities: The “Brockport Loop” project in Monroe County will connect SUNY College at Brockport to the Empire State Trailand the village of Brockport through the transformation of a canal guard-gate into a pedestrian bridge and overlook, with a supporting grant of $2 million from the Ralph Wilson Foundation. 

Celebrating “Iconic Infrastructure”: Interactive, hydro-powered illumination of Canal “movable dams” – initially in Amsterdam and Canajoharie in the Mohawk River valley – will celebrate the Canal’s heritage and its history as an engineering marvel.

Expanding Water Recreation: A new whitewater destination, at the north end of Cayuga Lake near Seneca Falls, will rely on existing water control infrastructure to construct an active water sports course adjacent to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, to increase eco-tourism and sport visitors to the region.

Adapting Industrial Property for New Uses: Winner of the Reimagine the Canals competition, a canalside pocket neighborhood, will be developed by Madison County in Central New York at a former industrial property in Canastota along the Old Erie Canal – demonstrating a new model for 21st century canalside living.

Developing Destination Accommodations: The historic Guy Park Manor, on the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, will be reborn as a hospitality destination and a pedestrian bridge constructed across the already-existing Canal lock will provide access to additional overnight accommodation along the Empire State Trail on the opposite side of the river.

World-Class Fishing and Restored Wetlands 

To create world-class fishing in Western New York, the new plan recommends managing water releases from the Canal to enhance fish habitat, improve angling opportunities, and extend the fall fishing season in Lake Ontario tributaries. It also includes funding to expand public fishing access along key streams in Orleans, Monroe and Niagara Counties. In addition, it identifies a program to divert Canal water to restore and re-nourish wetlands in Central New York that were compromised a century ago by the Canal’s construction. This will allow areas in close proximity to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a migratory stopover for more than 1 million birds each year, to be significantly enhanced to further attract naturalists, locals, and visitors from throughout the region and beyond. 

Ideas in this plan originated from the Reimagine the Canals Task Force recommendations,  launched by Governor Cuomo in May of 2019 to pursue a comprehensive investigation of how the 195-year-old Erie Canal could be reimagined for the 21st century. The Reimagine the Canals Task Force Report  was just released.

The Task Force engaged with municipal leaders, stakeholders, local business owners, scientists and other experts, along with community members, to identify opportunities and solutions that support a new vision for future investments in the waterway. Many of the ideas that the Task Force explored came from the completed Reimagine the Canals competition, held last year by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation. SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, on behalf of the Task Force, conducted a series of outreach sessions during the summer in five canal communities – Lockport, Brockport, Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse – to solicit new ideas from the public at large. Ideas were also solicited on a Reimagine the Canals website, offering more distant canal users an opportunity to provide their views to the Task Force.

The “Reimagine” initiative builds on successful efforts by Governor Cuomo to invest in the canal corridor, including the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and successful Taste NY program, which have stoked new industries, businesses and housing in canal communities. Harnessing the Canal’s full potential to attract more tourism and recreation is a key focus of the Initiative. Governor Cuomo and state agency and authority staff will collaborate with Empire Line communities and continue to consult with Task Force members and other stakeholders to ensure the success of projects as they move forward. 

There are 1.6 million trips taken annually on the Erie Canal Trailway, the former towpath used by mules and horses to pull barges in the canals’ early days. The Trailway is part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail, which at 750 miles will be the largest state multi-use trail network when completed in late 2020. Governor DeWitt Clinton began work on the original Erie Canal on July 4, 1817. 

In addition to investing $300 million in the Canal System, there are also plans to create two new state parks in the Hudson Valley, add 4,000 acres of land to parks and introduce a $3 billion “Restore Mother Nature” bond act.

Meanwhile, registration has opened for the 22nd Annual Cycle the Erie, eight-day 400-mile, fully supported biking/camping trip, from Buffalo to Albany, operated by Parks & Trails NY, taking place July 12-19, 2020. For information on Cycle the Erie Canal, call Parks & Trails New York, 518-434-1583, email eriecanaltour@ptny.org or visit www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal.

(See our series on Cycle the Erie, at goingplacesfarandnear.com)

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Country Walkers Offers Responsible Travel Itineraries That Support Conservation, Charitable Projects

Porto, a delightfully walkable city in northern Portugal, is featured on Country Walkers’ Porto-Lisbon tour which also supports “Farming for the Future” initiative © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Williston, VT –By 2030, 1.8 billion people – about 20 percent of the global population – are predicted to be tourists traveling the world. As the demand for global travel increases, consumers are faced with numerous decisions on how to make their trips more sustainable, including where to go, what to pack and how to get there. Country Walkers, a leading provider of walking adventures and a leader in responsible tourism for decades, offers travelers the opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable world through preserving indigenous cultures, supporting local economies, conserving wildlife and protecting the environment. 

“At Country Walkers, we are committed to a healthier planet and to giving back to the destinations we explore,” said Timo Shaw, President of Country Walkers. “Sustainability is one of our core values, from staying in locally owned and operated hotels whenever possible and seeking out environmentally and socially responsible accommodations, to our ardent support of the Slow Food movement in order to preserve culinary traditions and support biodiversity. As a result, those who travel with us contribute to a more sustainable world as well.” 

To further support special conservation and charitable projects in communities and habitats worldwide, Country Walkers created The Travelers Fund, which makes a donation on behalf of every traveler who books a specific tour. More than half of Country Walkers’ tours are associated with an initiative, including:

Mountain Rescue at Club Alpino Italiano (Country Walkers tour: Italy: The Amalfi Coast & Capri). Safety comes first on the Amalfi Coast with a donation to the local mountain rescue team, which primarily relies on volunteers and donations to obtain and maintain equipment for rapid emergency response for visitors and locals.

Wildlife Conservation in the Rocky Mountains (Country Walkers tours: Montana: Glacier National Park and Wyoming: Grand Teton & Yellowstone[KG1] ). The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative seeks to re-connect segments of land that have been separated by development, allowing animals to safely move from region to region on wildlife-friendly highway overpasses. Contributions are used towards constructing one of these wildlife structures.

Therapeutic Travel for Cancer Survivors in Quebec (Country Walkers tour: Quebec: Quebec City & the Saguenay Fjord). Country Walkers supports the Fondation Sur La Pointe des Pieds (“On the Tip of the Toes”), which provides young people ages 14 to 29 living with cancer with an opportunity to regain their sense of well-being through therapeutic adventure expeditions.

Assisting Pilgrims on Camino de Santiago (Country Walkers tour: Spain: Classic Camino de Santiago). The Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago coordinates a vast national network of hostels, volunteers, parishes, churches and shelters in an effort to keep more than 200,000 pilgrims safe, healthy and informed as they walk the Camino de Santiago.  

Clean Water in Zambia (Country Walkers tour: Zambia Safari: Exclusive Camps & Bush Walks). In Africa, currently 345 million people live without access to clean drinking water. Together with local partners in Zambia at Charity Begins Home, Country Walkers supports the “Commit to Clean Water” Fund, an initiative that seeks to transform rural communities by drilling wells into deep aquifers and pumping potable water to the surface.

Maintaining the Long Trail in Vermont (Country Walkers tour: Vermont: Fall Foliage). A highlight of the tour is walking along one of the most spectacular portions of the legendary 270-mile Long Trail, the nation’s first long-distance hiking trail. Country Walkers supports the Green Mountain Club, the stewards of this “footpath through the wilderness,” who also promote conservation of and education about Vermont’s mountains and rural land.

Advocacy for Small Businesses in Palermo (Country Walkers tour: Italy: Sicily). Country Walkers supports the nonprofit Addiopizzo movement, a grassroots coalition of over 850 shopkeepers aimed at squashing corruption in Sicily and educating locals about ethical business practices.

Conserving a Historic Chapel in Monterosso (Country Walkers tour: Italy: Portofino & Cinque Terre[KG2] ). In 2013, severe landslides destroyed the grounds of the historic Convento dei Cappuccini chapel and monastery. “Let’s Rebuild Monterosso’s Paradise” raises funds for the restoration, a cost far beyond the modest means of the town or diocese.

Cornwall Coastal Preservation (Country Walkers tour: England: The Cornwall Coast). The South West Coast Path Association advocates for improvements to more than 630 miles of this historic coastal trail system. As maintenance is costly, donations from Country Walkers on behalf of guests help maintain these paths that are heavily utilized on the tour.

Farming for the Future (Country Walkers tours: Portugal: Sintra, Óbidos & the Coast and Portugal: Porto to Lisbon). The Herdade do Freio do Meio farm applies principles of sustainability within the context of the Portuguese montado, a traditional pastoral agricultural system in which reducing reliance on fossil fuels and marketing regionally to provide fresh foods and minimize transport costs are key policies. The farm processes and sells many products on site, providing training and employment for locals.

Campobello Whale Rescue Team (Country Walkers tour: New Brunswick: Bay of Fundy & Campobello Island). Created by Mackie Green, the same captain who offers a whale watching excursion and boat transfers on the Country Walkers tour, the team is trained to dive and rescue whales trapped in fish netting. Donations support equipment and training.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Country Walkers tour: England: The Cotswolds). Stretching over 790 square miles, the Cotswolds is the largest recognized Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England due to its breathtaking scenery and rolling hills. Country Walkers supports efforts to keep the area well-preserved on behalf of every Cotswolds guest.

For more information on The Travelers Fund and Country Walkers’ sustainable travel initiatives, visit www.countrywalkers.com/sustainable-travel/ or call 800-234-6900.

For more than 40 years, Country Walkers has provided active, experiential, and stunning travel experiences on five continents. Based in Williston, Vt., the company’s specialized adventures and insider access bring the beating heart of a destination to life with well-crafted itineraries for Guided Walking and Self-Guided Walking. All walking trips highlight local cuisine, authentic accommodations, and immersive cultural experiences. Country Walkers is recognized as one of the leading providers of Walking Adventures worldwide, having garnered countless awards including National Geographic Traveler’s “50 Tours of a Lifetime” and Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” Awards.

For more travel features, visit:

goingplacesfarandnear.com

goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com

moralcompasstravel.info

www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin

travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/

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‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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